Reflecting on Religion

Rev. Brian J. Nierman

MINERAL WELLS, Texas — Truth be told, Jacob is not my most favorite character in the Bible. He is a trickster, a liar, a thief and a rule breaker.

He does not fit the pattern of faith modeled by his grandfather Abraham or his father Isaac. He is always at odds with this brother and does whatever his mother tells him to do without thinking about the consequences. He breaks the customs of the day and creates a world of chaos and danger.

Yet, God still uses Jacob as a bridge to the nation which is to emerge through his son, Joseph. Just because I don’t like this character, does not mean I cannot appreciate what God is doing through him.

After Jacob receives the blessing of his father, he runs for his life. Jacob suddenly finds himself exhausted and lays down unprotected, uncomfortable and unaware. He uses a rock as a pillow. God enters the story at this moment and gives Jacob a dream that will change the direction of the story from trickery to redemption. His dream involves a ladder, or stairway, connecting Heaven and Earth. It is a strange dream that has a profound impact on the history of the Jewish people and later the lives of the apostles.

The dream reveals a God who is both present in the history of the world and reigns in the heavens above. Its impact on Jacob brings about events that are now seen as God’s intervention in history while still remaining eternal. The first hearers of this story would have been blown away with this idea, while many today take this notion for granted.

The dream also reveals a flaw that all of us still possess – unawareness. When we stop to look around our home, office space, grocery store, gas station, bank, church, or wherever else we find ourselves, we are not always aware of God’s presence. We take these things for granted or we simply don’t care to take notice.

When asked where you find God, a majority of people will mention a time when they were “outside in nature.” We fail to discover God in the movement walking down the frozen food section, toward a person identified as strange, alien, or foe, and something deep inside says, “Say hello.” To recognize God’s connection in the aisle is to discover the sacred in the ordinary –you are there precisely at that moment to be present with God and others. You don’t need to sleep on a rock to know this is true.

In a time where we feel most divided, threatened, angered, and discouraged, Jacob’s story becomes a source of hope and reflection. If God is revealed through a seriously flawed individual to be a blessing to the world; then God can do the very same through you and me. We don’t need the best protection, the most comfortable setting, or to be completely aware to make good happen in this world. We just have to be open to God’s dream and then willing to follow it. In our vulnerability we can discover grace, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and Life!

Rev. Brian J. Nierman is pastor of First Christian Church of Mineral Wells.

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